Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The UAW-Dodge 400 is entering its 11th year on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series calendar. The track was similar to the Auto Club Speedway in California with its fairly flat banking. However, the track was reconfigured prior to the race in 2007. They increased the banking in the corners from 12 degrees to 20 and offer nine degrees of banking on the straights. In the past, similar setups were used on the two tri-ovals, but in preseason testing the teams learned that this was not the case anymore with the new car.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway added progressive banking prior to the 2007 season with the hope of creating a second groove and facilitating side-by-side racing. Still, the track is one of the flatter ones on the circuit, making downforce a key concern. Effective handling and a good pit strategy are important in making sure a driver has good track position. The team that can maximize their handling and track position will have an excellent chance to finish first.
Location: Las Vegas
Length: 1.50 miles
Shape: D-shaped oval
Banking: 20 degrees
Leading the Pack
Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Johnson appears to be making a similar start to the 2008 season as he did in 2007. He finished third in the Auto Club 500 in '07 and finished second this year. He returns to the track where he earned his first win of '07 this week in the UAW-Dodge 400, and fantasy owners should expect another strong finish. He has won the last three races here and stands a good chance to make it four in a row.
Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
Busch has come out of the box strong in 2008. He comes to his hometown as the series point leader in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as well as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Busch has finished in the top five in both races this season, and he has usually finished well at Las Vegas, too. His average finish at the track is 13.8 with three top-10 finishes and one DNF in four career starts. Busch is starting to look like a strong pick every weekend.
Jeff Gordon | No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
A strong third-place finish in the Auto Club 500 is an indication that Gordon's momentum from 2007 is continuing. In last year's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400, he finished second to teammate Jimmie Johnson. In the past three years, he has three top-five finishes in Las Vegas. There is no reason to believe that he could not get another this weekend.
Matt Kenseth | No. 17 DeWalt Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Kenseth rebounded from a difficult Daytona 500 to finish fifth in Fontana, which is one of his strongest tracks. Las Vegas is another track where Kenseth has a good history; he has two victories over the last five races. He hasn't finished outside of the top 10 here since 2002 and has two top-five finishes the past two years. Roush and Ford looked strong at California with two drivers finishing in the top five. Kenseth should be considered a strong pick this weekend.
Carl Edwards | No. 99 Office Max Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Fresh off of a win at Fontana, Edwards comes to a track where he hasn't had much success. The UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 of 2007 was Edwards' first top-10 finish at Las Vegas. His average finish over three visits to the track is 15.3. While Edwards was impressive at California, he shouldn't be the top Roush driver for fantasy owners to pick this week. However, he should be in line for a top-10 run.
Drivers to Keep an Eye On
Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Racing
Busch kick started 2008 with a top-five finish, and he is currently fourth in the Sprint Cup Series Standings. While his home track of Las Vegas hasn't been the best arena for Busch to post positive results, he hasn't finished all that poorly. His average finish at the track is 17.6, which includes one DNF. He has one top-five and one top-10 in seven career starts but hasn't finished in the top 10 since 2005. Like Newman, Busch and Penske appear to be in championship form and should be considered solid fantasy options in the coming weeks.
Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports
Kahne is currently sixth in the Sprint Cup Standings. He finished both races this year in the top 10. Las Vegas is a place where Kahne has had contrasting results. In four races at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he has two DNFs and two top-fives. Kahne has finished well at Las Vegas when he has finished and has led at least one lap in three of his four starts. Dodge was strong at Daytona but faded at California. Kahne will have to overcome that to succeed in Las Vegas.
Ryan Newman | No. 12 Alltel Dodge | Penske Racing
Newman sits second in the Sprint Cup standings this season, behind a win and another finish in the top 10. Penske has been running well, and Newman is leading that charge. Las Vegas may be more of a struggle for him and the team, though. His average finish at the track is 18.7 with one DNF in seven career starts. Newman has finished in the top 10 four times, while finishing 27th or worse in three of his seven starts. In each of his top-10 finishes, he has led at least one lap. Newman is coming off an eighth-place finish in last year's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400.
Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
Hamlin is another driver desperate to shake his bad luck. He finished 17th in Daytona after leading for 32 laps and was the first driver to be caught out by the weepers that appeared at the Auto Club Speedway. His teammates have both been running strong, and Hamlin should be expected to be giving all he can to match their results as he tries to turn his season around this weekend at Las Vegas. He stands a good chance to make sure he exercises those demons this week; he hasn't finished outside of the top 10 in his career at the track – sure, his career only consists of two races there, but they were good races.
Casey Mears | No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Mears has been on a roll this season. However, he just needs to shake his bad luck. He was running at the front of the Daytona 500 when he made contact with Tony Stewart, and last week in Fontana, he was the victim of water that was seeping onto the track from underneath the pavement. In his five visits to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Mears has three top-10 finishes. He looks strong in his new car at Hendrick, and if he can leave his bad luck behind, he could be in for some good results. Perhaps that will start at Las Vegas this weekend.